Luminocity’s ironically named “Hinterland,” performed Saturday night in downtown Atlanta’s Woodruff Park, with dance by Lauri Stallings’ gloATL and music by Big Boi, was one of the major autumn happenings on the local arts scene. It made so many connections, exploded so much conventional wisdom, that the arts community will be talking about its ramifications for weeks and months to come. Read Cynthia Bond Perry’s review here.
Choreographer Stallings’ mixed-media dance events hold a populist charm that’s rare in the high arts nowadays: her shows are designed to engage as many people as possible, from all corners of the city. (Dancing in the streets, dancing with a hip-hop megastar, dancing at the arts center, dancing in the shopping mall?) But Stallings’ work also shows what might be called enduring modernist tendencies, where accessibility to art must be somehow “challenging” and where an element of randomness worthy of John Cage underlines each event.
It leads to a philosophical dissonance where the raw, in-the-street approach is blurred by the crowd’s anxiety about actually seeing the event. At “Hinterland,” the dancers arrived unannounced and started weaving through the thick crowds. One sequence of dance was under an illuminated tree and culminated with … a crucifixion. Of the thousands in the park that evening, how many saw this? Perhaps it’s Stallings’ alchemic aesthetic strategy: you build up a mild anxiety because you’re missing something important, which is magically transformed into euphoria the moment you finally catch up with the action. (Photos in this gallery were provided by an anonymous photographer for use by ArtsCriticATL.)
From the crucifixion scene, the corps de ballet sprinted to a very long dinner table. Big Boi marched and danced to his own music on the tabletop. At one point, the dancers leapt from their seats and approached people in the crowd, making eye contact, offering a hand to shake. This past summer, after some controversy with a New York Times dance critic, Stallings had set new limits on her dancers’ (forced) physical interactions with the audience. But the hand offer to me was so disarming that I shook it.
April McCoy’s fabulous, richly ornate costumes, combined with ghoulish makeup, made the dancers look like Victorian zombies.
Adam Larsen’s projections set the surrounding buildings in motion — way cool. I wished there had been much more.
The “Hinterland” grand finale, in the following photos, turned the park’s water wall fountain into a stage of sorts. (Mercifully, in 40-degree weather, the water had been drained.) It was one of the few places where everyone could see what was happening.